Opinion: Sad story

POSTED: 01/9/14 1:59 AM

The report we publish today about a former civil servant who has fallen on hard times is a sad story that deserves some attention outside of the realm of the courthouse. Sure, the lady stole a car, and sure, she is going to jail for it. End of story?

Not really. The sad truth is that the woman has become psychotic because of drug abuse. Some people would say: using drugs is a personal choice, right? But what if from the onset the drug use was inspired by an ever so slight psychological problem? After that the psychological condition and the drug use could have started to influence each other.

No matter what, the result is devastating. We remember the young lady from a couple of years ago as healthy and full of life. She found a job at the Justice Ministry, where things slowly but surely started going wrong. She lost her job, and earned a prison sentence for burglarizing the house of a former colleague who had been good enough to put her up. From there things went downhill fast into a life without perspective but with lots of drugs and who knows what else.

When her attorney found her after her latest conflict with the law she was a pack of bones. Good that she got arrested, he said yesterday; otherwise, she would have been buried already. What a waste of a good life.

Our standard approach is to publish the full names of defendants that are convicted in court. But in the case of this young woman we felt the need to tell her story, but we also considered it indecent to parade her private tragedy with her full name in our report. That is why we left her name out of it. In this case, the circumstances are way more important than that detail.

Courtrooms do not have a lot to offer to people like this lady. Prosecutors, judges and attorneys sympathize with her situation, but when push comes to shove, the only thing they have to offer is a prison sentence, knowing darn well that it is not a solution at all. This is not to reproach the judicial system – it is a finger in the face of our social system.

The woman needs help, but the sad thing is that there is no help available in St. Maarten for her. Let us look at this from a broader perspective: how many of these citizens does our community harbor? How many of them need help that is not available?

In this case, a trip to the Turning Point rehab center would have been indicated. The reality is that Turning Point cannot accommodate female clients. Why this is so we have not found out yet, but in court yesterday it was presented as a fact.

One could argue that the woman also has psychological problems and that therefore she ought to be able to find a place at the Mental Health Foundation. That option was not brought up yesterday, but it does not mean the possibility does not exist.

In the meantime, our cash-strapped country ought to shake out flush government-owned companies for the right among of funding to tackle these types of social problems. It is unworthy of a young country that all we have to offer to someone who is down and out is eight months in prison.

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